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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Kaisersberg, Alsace, Germany [now Kaysersberg, Haut-Rhin, France]
Died in Lambaréné, Gabon

Mini Bio (1)

Albert Schweitzer was born on January 14, 1875, in Kaysersberg, near Strasbourg, Elsass-Lothringen, Germany (now in Alsace, France). His father and both grandfathers were pastors and organists. His family had been devoted to education, religion and music for generations.

Schweitzer took music lessons from his grandfather, a church organist. He spoke German and French in his bilingual Alsace family, and later added English to his studies. From 1893-1899 he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Strasbourg, University of Berlin and the Sorbonne. In 1899 he completed a doctorate dissertation on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. From 1905-1912 he studied medicine in Strasbourg and Paris, and received his MD degree in tropical medicine and surgery in 1912.

From the age of 9 Schweitzer started regular performances of organ music in his father's church and continued his organ recitals until the age of 89. In 1905 he wrote a biography of Johann Sebastian Bach, in French, then he rewrote and updated the Bach book--in German--in 1908, the version considered definitive. Schweitzer also published a book on organ building and playing in 1906. He was involved in the restoration of many valuable historic organs worldwide, including construction of the organ at his hospital in Lambarene, where he played music for his patients. He was described as the doctor who returns health to ill people and music to old organs. Albert Schweitzer made notable organ recordings of Bach's music in the 1940s and 1950s. Schweitzer based his interpretation on his profound knowledge of personality, education, religious and social life of Bach.

In 1905 he began his medical studies at the University of Strasbourg, because he decided to go to Africa as a medical doctor rather than a pastor. His medical knowledge was in urgent need during an epidemic of sleeping sickness there. In 1913 he obtained his MD degree, but was turned down by the Paris Missionary Society because his very liberal views of Christ's teachings did not conform to the Society's orthodox beliefs. Schweitzer and his wife went to Lambarene, French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon), and started a hospital in a tent, gradually adding rooms for special cases of sleeping sickness, leprosy, paediatrics and surgery. After his release from French internment Schweitzer practiced medicine in Strasbourg from 1918-1923. In 1924 he returned to his hospital in Lambarene, which was to be restored after years of decay during his absence. There his medical practice included paediatrics, infectious diseases and epidemiology, as well as surgery and traumatology. His versatility in medicine helped to save many thousands of lives. Schweitzer donated his royalties from public performances and book publications to the hospital, which expanded to 500 beds by the 1950s. "Everyone must have his 'Lambarene'", said Schweitzer.

Schweitzer gained great reputation for writing "The Quest of the Historical Jesus" (1906). He was acclaimed for his two concise books on in 1905-1908. In 1917 Schweitzer and his wife were arrested by the French administration in Africa for being Germans, and sent to a French internment camp at the St. Remy mental institution. There Schweitzer was kept at the same room where Vincent Van Gogh lived before his suicide. The Schweitzers were prisoners of war until the end of the First World War in 1918. After his release Schweitzer gave a major speech about his "Reverence for Life" (1920). He spent six years in Europe and published "The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization" (1923) and "Civilization and Ethics" (1923), which he drafted during his captivity in St. Remy.

Schweitzer saved lives by his medical work, by writing and teaching and by advocating for peace and nuclear control. He admittedly followed the similar line as that of the Russian humanitarian and writer Leo Tolstoy. As the founder of a free public hospital, a writer and humanitarian, Schweitzer became the leading proponent of accessible medicine for all. He was also involved in the foundation of the Goethe Institute. From 1952 until his death Schweitzer worked against nuclear weapons together with Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell. On December 10, 1953, Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated his prize money to build a leprosy clinic in Lambarene. In 1957 Schweitzer co-founded The Committee for a sane Nuclear Policy.

As it was told, many girls adored Schweitzer, but Helene Bresslau offered him thoughtful partnership and practicality instead of flattery. Schweitzer and Helen began their relationship in 1898, as students. In many hundreds of their letters they only once used the word "love". Schweitzer called his medical work "the religion of love, actually put into practice." The disapproval, conservatism and shallowness of many Christian friends and even his own father did not stop him from his career change to medicine in 1905. Only Helene Bresslau understood him. In 1912 Schweitzer married her before they went to Equatorial Africa. It was a passionate, profound joining of souls. She trained as a nurse and became his assistant in medical work, in writing and in international public service. Their daughter, Rhena, was born in 1919, she later became the lab analyst at her father's hospital in Africa. His cousin Anne-Marie Schweitzer was the mother of Jean-Paul Sartre, who called Schweitzer 'Uncle Al'.

Schweitzer was a multifaceted person, a true Renessance man. He was a doctor, a pastor, a teacher, a writer, a musician, a father and husband, an international lecturer and the leading proponent of peace, all at the same time. He admired all people as brothers and sisters. His openness and helpfulness to strangers was disarming and ennobling. He was learning from simple people through his entire life, being himself patient, modest and humble. "Why are you traveling in the 4th class?" some official asked him - "Because there is no 5th class", answered Schweitzer.

His humor was legendary. His look resembled that of his friend Albert Einstein. Once on a train he was asked by two schoolgirls, "Dr. Einstein, will you give us your autograph?" He did not want to disappoint them, so he signed their autograph book: "Albert Einstein, by his friend Albert Schweitzer."

He died on September 4, 1965, in the hospital, which he founded in 1913, and was laid to rest in the ground of his hospital in Lambarene, Gabon.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (1)

Helene Schweitzer (1912 - 1 June 1957) (her death) (1 child)

Trivia (1)

Born 11:50pm-LMT

Personal Quotes (2)

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.
The man who sees a green light everywhere is an optimist.

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